Tax Day 2009

posted by Mike on April 15th, 2009

“Once we give to God what is God’s there is nothing left for Caesar.”
–Dorothy Day

Today’s vigil for an end to the Guantanamo prison and US torture was at the White House, as usual. In the park across the street was the Washington, DC “tea party,” a demonstration against government spending and taxation, especially the turn these have taken since Obama’s been in office.

DC Tea Party

I was wearing a hood most of the time, so I’m in no position to characterize the event. I did take my hood off and talk to two women, who for some reason were surprised that the people at our vigil were mostly Christian, and did all sorts of good work when they weren’t dressed as detainees. I shared my concern that the media I read have not been taking the Tea Parties seriously, that they’ve been dismissing them as having a confused message or as being co-opted by non-grassroots groups. I think these things have been true to some extent of every large demonstration I’ve attended, and while they’re worthy of note, pointing them out should not be enough to dismiss a group of people taking to the streets.

Besides, as our vigil “co-captain” Carmen Trotta told me: “These are definitely grassroots folks.”

Oklahoma Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop:

Dear Representative Mary Fallin, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator James Inhofe, President Barak Obama, Governor Brad Henry,

On this Tax Day 2009, I write to denounce each and every one of you as thieves, liars, and murderers. You have drunk deeply of the bitter wine of unjust war, and your hands drip with the blood of your victims. The stench of death is upon you, and the voices of those who have died in the unjust wars you so gloriously support cry out to history for justice and remembrance.

One of my great heroes, Ammon Hennacy, was serious about protesting taxes. He didn’t pay his taxes, and would fast and picket outside federal offices every year encouraging others to do the same. Here’s part of his account of a five-day fast outside the tax office in Phoenix, beginning on Hiroshima Day, 1950:

All My Heroes Have FBI FilesAccording to the Gandhian technique of goodwill and frankness, I wrote to the City Manager and to my tax man, telling them of my extended plans, and to the chief of police asking for a permit, and telling him if he did not give me one I would picket anyway. . . .

I had a small quantity of leaflets, [Catholic Workers], and folded tax statements in the back pocket of my levis. I had walked three sides of this block three other times when I picketed against payment of taxes, so the ground was familiar. Shouts of “Go back to Russia, you Commie” were frequent. One Catholic lady who said she had bought CWs from me at St. Mary’s cordially took a slip. When I walked on, a man shouted at me to go back to Russia. The lady turned to him and said, “Go back to Russia yourself!”

Those who fast do not stop to eat, so I kept on during the noon hour. A few now and then greeted me kindly, but most were fearful to be seen speaking to me, and many shouted insults. At about 3 P.M., a news reporter and photographer stopped me for an interview. A crowd gathered around. One man was especially noisy, poking his finger in my face and shouting, “Russia,” “the boys in Korea,” etc. One big man said that back in his state they took fellows like me and threw them in the river.

“Where do you come from, Buddy?” I asked.

“From Ohio, ‘long the Ohio River,” he replied.

“So do I, and I was acting like a radical there when I was sixteen and no one threw me in,” I answered quickly. The crowd laughed. Another big fellow said that if I came back tomorrow with my “damn Communist papers” they would take me out in the desert and throw me up against a cactus and I would stick there.”

In a very quiet voice, but firmly, I said: “You are not really as mean a man as you make out to be.”

At this the crowd melted away, although my two interrogators insulted me as I passed by with my sign again. But they could find no one to back them up. Jack [a veteran helping him out with the fast] had been outside the crowd and a lady told him, not knowing that he was my friend, that I was not a Commie for I picketed here every year.

After 4:00 P.M. Mr. Schumacher, my tax man, came up and handed me a card that read:

Seized for the account of the United States on 8-7-50 by the virtue of warrant for distraint issued by the collector of internal revenue, district of Arizona, Deputy Collector–One poster for picket line.

Actually there were three posters, but I handed them over saying that I would get some new ones made and picket the next day. I continued handling out leaflets and CWs without any signs until Rik met me at 5:30 P.M.

Rik made new signs that night and wrote on them: “This sign is the personal property of Joseph Craigmyle.”

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3 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On April 21, 2009 at 11:30 Adam Villani said:

    Why is it that only people opposed to Barack Obama spell his name “Barak?” Is it some secret code for something else?

  2. On April 21, 2009 at 14:48 Mike said:

    I think it’s just rant-induced sloppiness. We had this same trouble with one of the 100 Days flyers–it was fixed as soon as we pointed it out, but until then was a pervasive typo.

  3. On April 21, 2009 at 19:29 Adam Villani said:

    This is the first time I’d seen him attacked from the Left with that spelling; generally it’s the “Barak Hussein Obama is a secret Muslim who was born in Africa” crowd that uses that spelling.

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